Thursday, April 5, 2012

Your Children Can Help with Meal Times

Dear friends,

I'm doing a Hope Chest e-magazine issue on Food & Compassion, and thought I'd include a section I wrote on Meal Times in my book Common Sense Excellence: Faith-Filled Home Education for Preschool to 5th Grade.  This excerpt is from the chapter on Life Skills.


“In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, 
but a foolish man devours all he has.”  Proverbs 21:20

“Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.” Proverbs 15:17

“She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.  
She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.” 
Proverbs 31:14-15

The way to a man’s heart is still through his stomach.  Jesus fed bread and fish to the hungry multitudes, called himself “the bread of life”, ate a communion meal in the Upper Room with his disciples just before he was betrayed, and even ministered to them after his resurrection by roasting fish for them on the shore.  At this time, he also admonished the apostle Peter to “Feed my sheep.”  (See John 21.)  Can you just imagine the Wedding Feast we will enjoy in Heaven with Jesus as our Bridegroom?  If meals are so important in God’s sight, I think they should be a vital part of our children’s life skills education!   Here are some things you can teach your child to do:

Check out cookbooks from the library in the j651 section.  You will find plenty of international and historical food books, such as those listed in the Social Studies section.    The Fannie Farmer Junior Cookbook is one of our general favorites 

Start a recipe collection.  Let your child start a recipe notebook or box to collect her favorites.  These might include family recipes that are passed down from relatives. Take care that recipes are copied accurately!  If you like, you can insert each page into a plastic notebook sleeve to keep it clean during use. An older child can also choose one recipe to learn very well so that it can be her specialty.   She can also experiment with how to adapt recipes to make them healthier or more unique. My daughter Mary made her own illustrated keepsake cookbook when she was in elementary school. 

Plan a weekly menu, fill out a shopping list, go to the grocery store and shop for the ingredients.  Learn how to find the best quality and price for foods.  Read nutritional labels and unit pricing. While you are at the store, browse through unusual foreign foods such as calabaza, yucca root or malanga.

Follow recipes and learn the lingo. How much is a pinch of salt?  What does it mean to dice, mash, or simmer food?  Memorize abbreviations such as t. or tsp. for teaspoon and T. or Tbs. for tablespoon so that you don’t mix them up. 

Practice using kitchen utensils and appliances safely.  This might include the microwave oven, popcorn air popper, hand mixer, stove, apple corer, etc.

Prepare the food. Cut foods with a safe knife, peel vegetables, measure ingredients, mix batters, tear up lettuce for a salad, put spreads on bread, assemble a sandwich or burritos, spoon out dough for drop cookies, decorate a cake, scramble eggs, boil water for noodles, etc.

Learn about timing various elements of the meal preparation.  Your child will learn how to plan ahead so that everything is done and hot at about the same time. This requires more advanced thinking skills.  What will go on the big burners on the stove top?  If two things need to go in the oven, will they require the same temperature?  Will they both fit? What can be kept warm without burning?  What productive things can you do in the kitchen while you wait for the meat to fry?

Serve food to the table without dropping it.  Use plastic plates until your child gets the hang of this.  This requires walking steadily, and perhaps using a tray. 

Pour drinks without spilling.  Practice this with water over a sink or counter first. Use a child-friendly pitcher.  Allow your child to serve drinks to family members who are working outside in hot weather.

Clean up!  Don’t neglect this part of the process, or you will pay for it in aggravation later. Even a two year old can carry a plastic cereal bowl to the sink, stand up on tiptoe and dump it in.  A four year old can scrape his plate into the garbage -- after he eats his vegetables!

Pack a picnic lunch.  Plan which foods can “keep” safely outside and are tidy to eat. Learn how to pack them so they won’t spill or spoil.  Include unbreakable plastic or paper plates and cups, as well as a good supply of napkins.

Explore food careers through books and field trips. What is it like to be a dietitian, chef, restaurant owner, or caterer?  What kind of laws govern food safety in restaurants or stores?

Learn table manners. There are courteous ways to eat, pass items, be excused, remove something inedible from your mouth, etc. Ask God’s blessing on the food. Memorize a variety of traditional table graces, and be able to ask a spontaneous blessing.


I hope you have enjoyed this excerpt!  There are a lot of links about food on my other blogs, and  I've been doing a series on saving money, menu planning, etc.

Also on this blog: My Own Batch of Cookies

Virginia Knowles

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